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Dale Resler Worked Hard for El Paso
By Miranda Leenheer"Never a seeker of publicity, much of his generosity and efforts for the people and city of El Paso went unnoticed and unrecorded."-- Jack Guynes
Businessman Jack Guynes said of his friend and associate, "El Paso's most generous philanthropist, Dale Resler, did more in any one year for El Paso than most El Pasoans do in a lifetime." An exaggeration? No. The story of Dale Resler is one of selfless dedication to the city in which he lived for more than four decades.
Dale Resler was born in 1899 to Harve and Mary Resler. He was raised in a traditional Germanic fashion and was encouraged to excel in all he attempted. At the age of three, his mother died. In 1908, his family moved to Eastern Colorado to homestead south of the town of Akron. Resler met Nona Henry, whose family were also homesteaders, and the two married in 1922. Nona and Dale homesteaded their own section of land.
The young Resler was interested in machinery. He mounted a corn sheller on a flatbed truck that did not get stuck in the mud as tractors did. Other farmers quickly hired Resler to help them with their harvest. Dale bought a truck and started taking eggs, milk and cream from the local farmers to Denver. Then he brought back fresh produce to the Akron grocery.
The Reslers also bought a bakery which Nona ran while Dale was busy with trucking. In the spring of 1926, Mrs. Resler gave birth to their son, Wayne. Four years later, Bonnie was born. Shortly before the birth, one of Nona’s brothers told him about miners needing transportation from Silver City, N. M. to the copper mines several miles away. No public transportation was available for the miners. Dale traveled south to check out the potential business opportunity.
Resler decided a bus line was the answer. Before returning to his family, he laid the groundwork for this project by purchasing a stretched sedan and advertising his business. He went back to Colorado, loaded up his family and their belongings and headed to Silver City. Business boomed for several months until the mines closed suddenly, and Resler was forced to shut down.
Because the family liked the area, Resler got a job driving a bus for Carlsbad Cavern Tours in Carlsbad, New Mexico. But he missed a passenger pick-up and was fired.
With a partner, he bought Rio Grande Stages, and the family moved to Las Cruces in 1931. Because he was on the road so much, his daughter Bonnie didn’t recognize him one day when he came home. The Reslers decided to settle in one place. They moved to El Paso in 1932 and remained here.
The Reslers decided to try another transportation company, this time specializing in pleasure travel. First, he purchased Carlsbad Cavern Coaches. As tours became more profitable and business expanded, Dale purchased a franchise of Gray Line Sightseeing in 1938. Then he offered tours of El Paso-Juárez.
Dale was the official chauffeur, mechanic and tour guide from El Paso to Carlsbad Caverns. In 1940, Dale and his shop foreman designed an evaporative air conditioner mounted in the rear of the bus, long before factory air was available. Later Wayne became a steward on the buses, then a driver, and he worked in the office.
Mr. Resler owned and operated a number of different transportation-oriented businesses. They included the Gray Line Sightseeing Service, Carlsbad Cavern Coaches, Resler Truck Line, and El Paso White Truck Sales and Welding Supply.
In addition to transportation, Dale Resler was instrumental in the growth of El Paso through his contributions as longtime member and chairman of the El Paso Planning Commission. He helped plan a water conservation system and several other projects dealing with the city’s infrastructure. Later, as a member of the Highway Coordination Committee, he helped to map out the freeway system for the El Paso area. In 1970, Governor Preston Smith named Dale Resler to the Texas Mass Transportation Commission.
As Chair of the Land Planning, Acquisition and Development Committee, Resler helped acquire 35 parcels of land adjacent to Texas Western College (now UTEP), so that the long-range expansion plans of the college could be completed.
While he was building El Paso into a modern city, he was also building boys into men, donating time, energy, money and land to the Boy Scouts. He was a charter member and President of the Yucca Council, Boy Scouts of America, and served as treasurer for more than 15 years. To honor their leader, the Yucca Council dedicated Camp Dale Resler in Cloudcroft, New Mexico.
Resler's flourishing business ventures allowed him to help El Paso in many other ways. He was a founding donor to Providence Hospital and donated time and money to what used to be called the Community and War Chest and then the United Fund, a service organization that provided money, goods and services to those in need.
Upon their move to El Paso, the Reslers became leaders in Trinity Methodist Church. Nona Resler sponsored young people’s classes and activities and served as superintendent of the Young People’s Department.
Dale Resler served in almost every capacity in the church, from Chairman of the Board of Trustees to greeter and usher. No job was too small or too big. In 1958, he was voted El Paso’s Outstanding Churchman of the Year by the El Paso Council of Churches.
Through all of his acts of kindness and generosity, Dale Resler remained behind the scenes, sometimes even in business. In 1944, Resler provided the capital and equipment for his printing venture with J. Carl Hertzog who ran the business. In 1957, Resler bought Guynes Printing Co.Dale Resler also held public office, serving two terms as alderman. But here, too, his service to the city was unselfish as he refused compensation for his office, preferring that the money be used for other projects.
Resler served his community tirelessly. He helped build the YMCA building, serving as its director as well as leading the Salvation Army and the Southwestern Children’s Home. He was a member of the Downtown Rotary Club for 33 years, also serving as director. He was a Director of the State National Bank for 20 years, and the Texas State Board of Advisors to the Mountain Bell Telephone Company for 10 years.
The local chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews honored Resler in 1970 with its prestigious Human Relations Award. The city of El Paso gave him the Conquistador Award in recognition of his public service.
On May 6, 1976, Dale Resler died. The Boy Scouts took one last opportunity to honor a man who had given so much to them. Hundreds of scouts in full uniform lined up across the street from the church to salute Resler as his funeral procession passed by.
Throughout his life, Resler remained a quiet, unassuming man, never presumptuous or arrogant. In a eulogy given by Jake Ross, Resler was remembered this way: “He walked with leaders throughout his life, and by his own choosing, stayed slightly to the left and one step behind … Yet he was the greater leader of them all.”
Ross added words with which no one who knew Resler could argue: “He grew in spirit, self-reliance, service and honor so that his stay upon this land left El Paso a far, far better place for his having been here.”
His wife Nona, son Wayne and daughter Bonnie Karlsrud survived him. Nona, now 102 years old, is still a member of the El Paso Woman’s Club.*
As a tribute to the memory of her father, Bonnie began to write a book about him. One of Bonnie’s fondest memories goes back to when she was a little girl and her father took her to where Belvidere Street is today and told her, “Someday, El Paso will reach all the way out here.”
“He was right. I thought it was a joke, but Daddy was a visionary,” she said. Today, Resler Drive stands as a final testament to a great man who believed in service to his God and fellow man.
*Nona Resler died in El Paso on June 27, 2003, shortly after Borderlands appeared in the El Paso Times on June 15, 2003.